Today's subject is the survivor of one of the more successful ethnic cleansings to date. Less than a thousand of his people are thought to have made it offworld, scattered among the stars. For all practical intents and purposes, his people have ceased to exist. As always, names and other identifying information have been removed. Otherwise, it is presented wholly unedited. Reader discretion is advised.
Hate doesn't spring up overnight. You don't just wake up one day and decide to kill your neighbors, people you've known your whole life, on a whim. Hate is slow and festering. It takes time to reach critical mass. But once it does, there's nothing that can stop it.
Like all good feuds, the seeds were sown so far back in the past, it seems laughable now. We started off as one people, refugees from a galaxy that just didn't make sense. What you call the Force, we call Shala. Like many people, we believe that all life springs from Shala, and that Shala springs from life. Our founders taught that perfect obedience to Shala meant perfect service to life itself.
Thou shalt not kill was our highest calling. We did not kill even to eat; our food was synthetically produced, so that no plant or animal would come to harm for our sake. We even built repulsors into our shoes, so that we wouldn't crush the grass or insects beneath our feet.
At the time, the public face of Shala were the Jedi, but a Jedi's symbol of authority was a lightsaber. A weapon. To preserve life, they took it, and our founders simply couldn't countenance the idea. How could they?
And so, we found our own world, carved out own Eden among nature, and for generations, we lived in near perfect harmony. And then the Clone Wars came.
An army of droids, lifeless imitations of living beings, destroying lives by the millions. It was unthinkable! Blasphemy! How could we just sit by and watch Shala be perverted so?
That was the question our elders grappled with. Finally, they came to an agreement. Those who wished to go and serve in the fight against the droids were free to do so, so long as they remembered their vows never to take a sentient life. Those who did not were free to remain, safe from judgment. Some stayed, some went. It seemed like a perfect solution.
When the veterans returned, however, something curious happened. They had seen the outside world, and it changed them. They no longer believed that life could only be served by those willing to fight to preserve it. They discarded their repulsor shoes and wore sturdy boots, sorrowful for the lives crushed beneath their feet, but ever conscious of the sacrifice made so that they could fight if needed.
The elders tolerated their heresy with heavy hearts. It was not our way to cast out those who believed differently, but rather, to surround them with love and the light of Shala.
For a time, they were but a small minority, but their numbers grew over the centuries. Their philosophy was appealing to the young, the bold, and the reckless who craved adventure beyond the peaceful confines of our enclaves. Though no implements of war were permitted on our world, they never lacked for work as mercenaries. They returned from their wars, raised families, families who shared their beliefs and raised their own families in them. They bred more quickly, being less concerned about preserving the balance with nature, and within a handful of generations, they were no longer the minority.
I think the original veterans would have been heartbroken to see what came from their teachings. No longer were the boots a sign of willing, sorrowful sacrifice, but of pride and arrogance. No longer were we a common people with a common culture that varied only in the details of our beliefs, but two distinct nations, living amongst one another.
What was once seen as reverence to the old ways soon became cowardice in their eyes. Those of us who wore the repulsor shoes began to find that life was no longer as harmonious as it once was. Our enclaves became ghettos, our temples vandalized. The shoes that were once a sign of devotion to Shala became a stigma, required by custom, so that our betters could identify the cowards that polluted their air.
For a time, any of us who wished to cast aside our "dishonorable" ways and join the true servants of Shala were free to do so, but that stopped about the time my grandfather was born. From then on, the blood of a coward made one a coward. We were not permitted to intermarry among the true servants. We were confined to our ghettos, and anyone caught leaving would be savagely beaten, or worse.
Truthfully, my people didn't mind the hardship. We would never have dreamed of fighting back. As the world around us became more "modern", more "civilized", we maintained our humble lives and our connection to nature. It was no hardship to preserve what we could, to worship Shala and preserve it as our forefathers before us.
And then one night, a little girl, barely more than a toddler, was separated from her parents as they ventured into the wilderness on sabbatical. By then, the practice was forbidden officially, but unofficially, the true servants, as they called themselves, often turned a blind eye. We might have been second class citizens in their eyes, but I think a part of them remembered that we shared a common ancestry, and the idea of denying us our most sacred rite made them uncomfortable.
The girl had no business in the wilderness, her parents had no business bringing her their. Children are our most precious gift, and though an adult may choose to lay down their life, if need be, so that a predator may eat, a child cannot possibly understand what that means, or accept the risk that comes with sabbatical.
She was found some weeks later, having drowned in a river that supolied water to a city of true servants. What was a tragic accident was viewed as an act of devious sabotage. The writing was on the wall.